Jealousy

jealousy

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Jealousy

Are you a jealous person? What about envy? Could you be both jealous and envious of another person? God speaks on both of these sins in no unmistakable terms.

Jealousy is often confused with envy. The English word jealous means “fearful or wary of being supplanted; apprehensive of losing affection or position. . . . having to do with or arising from feelings of envy, apprehension, or bitterness.”[1] Envy is “a feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by desire for the possessions or qualities of another.”[2] Envy, begrudge, and covet “mean to feel resentful or painful desire for another’s advantages or possessions.”[3]

Jealous, covetous, and envious “mean resentfully or painfully desirous of another’s advantages: jealous of her success; covetous of his possessions; envious of their art collection.”[4] As one can see, there is some overlapping in the meaning of these important sins.

Jealousy comes from the Greek zelos, which may be translated as either “zeal” or “jealousy,” depending on the context. Mounce points out that zelos can mean “zeal, earnestness” which can be a virtue.[5] For instance, Paul writes, “. . . not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). The term “fervent” here is zeontes, zeal.

One way that jealous is used in a positive way is in regard to God Himself. He is a jealous God! “He is a holy God, He is a jealous God” (Joshua 24:19). He demands exclusive devotion of His people.   “A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; the LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies” (Nahum 1:2; cf. Deuteronomy 29:18-28; Ezekiel 5:13). Paul says that when one partakes of idolatry, it awakens the Lord to jealousy: “Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” (1 Corinthians 10:22). To be a friend of the world is “hostility toward God” (James 4:4).

Our jealousy for God’s glory and honor is a right response. Elijah testified, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant. . .” (1 Kings 19:14). Thus, when we defend God and His word before others, we are “jealous” of His rightful place and authority. He realizes that He is desiring of our exclusive devotion.

Generally, however, zelos has a bad meaning and must be avoided. In this sense, jealousy “is excessive concern for one’s own self, and what one fancies or desires should be his. It may also involve resentment of the good fortune of another. It is an inordinate self-centeredness or possessiveness. It may mean an unreasonable demanding of another person, such as a mate, more than is one’s rightful due—requiring total and sole attention, for example.”[6]

We see examples of jealousy scattered through the Scriptures. When Joseph related to his family the dream of his preeminence, the record says that “his brothers were jealous of him” (Genesis 37:11). When Jacob made a special tunic for Joseph, “his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms” (v. 4). They were jealous of Joseph’s favorable status with his father.

When Saul saw that David was more highly favored by Israel than was he, Saul became very angry, an anger that must have been connected to jealousy. The older brother in Christ’s parable of the prodigal son, manifested a jealous spirit in his heart when he saw his father and the servants joyfully accepting his wayward younger brother (cf. Luke 15:17-32).

The unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem “were filled with jealousy” as they observed the preaching and popularity of the apostles, thus they threw these men into jail (Acts 5:17). In Antioch of Pisidea, the Gentiles were showing great interest in Paul’s proclamation of Christ, but “when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming” (13:45). Again, their jealousy was aroused because of the success of Paul and Barnabas. The Jews in Thessalonica also became jealous because many were receiving the word from Paul and Silas (17:5). Jealousy often causes one to act irrationally and oppose the truth of God.

Jealousy is a deed of the flesh that will bar one from the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:20-21). Paul states that “jealousy and strife” were found among the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:3). Jealousy is linked to strife, angry tempers, and other evil attitudes and sins (2 Corinthians 12:20). Paul urges the Romans to “behave property as in the day” and not partake of “strife and jealousy” (13:13). James says, “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth” (3:14). He says that “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (v. 16).

We can see that jealousy sours the spirit and embitters the soul. It corrupts the heart and must never be found in our life. Let’s be willing to accept second place—and not be jealous of someone in first place. Let’s accept our inferior physical abilities and appearance—and not be jealous of the handsome and beautiful.

One key to overcoming the sin of jealousy is to love the object of jealousy—the one who is arousing the jealousy. Paul says that love “is not jealous” and “does not seek its own, is not provoked” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). If we genuinely love a person or have an outgoing concern for the welfare of someone, we are less likely to be tempted to fall into a jealous spirit over him or her.

[1] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Expository Dictionary.

[6] The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v. “Jealousy.”

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